BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
September 20 2021
Number of Permits per Day: 3
Elevation: 1673 feet
Clearwater Lake - 62
EP 62 Clearwater Lake
June 20, 2019
Number of Days:
We arrived the night before at Clearwater Lodge. I had made a reservation for a Bunkhouse for the four of us. We got to Clearwater at around 11:30pm but the folks at Clearwater were nice enough to leave a map pinned to the main lodge so we could find the bunkhouses and set up there for the night. Just make sure you call and let them know you will be arriving after 10pm. I would highly recommend doing this if you can. The Bunkhouses are about $20.00 a person and they allow you to get a head start on your trip.
We decided to eat breakfast at the lodge. Breakfast included fresh fruit, a generous portion of bacon, and french toast. Again, highly recommend getting breakfast there too.
After we finished breakfast, we went back to the bunk houses to finish packing. We didn't have all the time in the world to pack everything up before we got up there so we took an hour or so to do that in the bunkhouse.
Once we got our permits, watched the video, and loaded up the canoes, we were away on Clearwater. The paddle was a little difficult because of the headwind but nothing we could not handle. The views from Clearwater are great. There are about three or four big bluffs to look at. It took us about two and a half hours to get from Clearwater Lodge to the portage to West Pike Lake.
The portage from Clearwater to West Pike was pretty easy - thanks to another group we met there. Originally, we were going to be ambitious enough to single portage our full packs/gear with the Kevlar canoes. However, when we told the other group that we ran into at the landing that that was our plan, they told us we were nuts. Turns out they were probably right. We took their advice and double portaged.
Once we were on West Pike, we took the first site on the north side of the lake. We arrived there around 3:30pm (I think) and set up camp there for the night. Pros for this site include enough trees to block wind, decent but not great landing for canoes, and places for both tents. Only con was it wasn't super easy to shore fish. I think all of us got our lines stuck in a tree at one point. But, on the plus side, each of us caught a fish.
We enjoyed the fire, star watching, freeze dried chili (yum), and each other's company. Most of the evening, loons were busy calling each other from different lakes.
After the portage, we took a about 15-20 mins to catch our breath on before heading west on Pine Lake. Thankfully at this point, we had a nice tail wind so paddling was much quicker. We took the 2nd site on the north side (west of the portage from West Pike). It's impossible to miss with a huge rock landing. The landing made for great shore fishing. The location was also nice as we could see a long way in either direction. The site also provided enough cover to be able to start a fire while the wind was still blowing.
Once we got all set up, we got the fire going, boiled some more drinking water, and made some freeze dried chicken and rice. One thing we always do up there is keep an pot over the fire to boil water. That way we constantly have a fresh supply of drinking water at camp. Once we ran out of wood, we spent about 30 mins down on the rock watching the stars. We saw plenty of satellites and shooting stars. Again, another perfect day. We all caught some fish, had plenty of sun, and found a great site to camp at.
This was where we made our 1 navigation mistake. For some reason when we looked at the map, we thought that Johnson Falls was along the switchback portage from Pine Lake to Paddle Lake. So we unloaded there and grabbed our swimsuits and headed up that portage. Only to find that Johnson Falls were not there. We walked back to Pine and took another trail that went along Pine Lake. As we took that trail, we also noticed there was another landing spot on Pine Lake for folks wanting to visit the falls. Needless to say though, we found the falls after a bit of a walk and we were able to take a swim in the falls. This short trip is well worth it. The falls are beautiful and it's a great place to rinse off after a few days in the woods.
Due to our navigational error and extra time re-organizing our packs back at Pine Lake, we probably lost a couple of hours of time and we started to worry that we might not be able to get a camp site. We quickly completed the two portages on Little Caribou lake to get to Caribou Lake. The first two sites on the far east side were taken, as was the one on Little Caribou. And with the amount of traffic we saw on Pine Lake, we thought we were going to have to make the portage to either Deer Lake or Moon Lake if Caribou was full. But, our prayers were answered as one of the best sites on the lake was available. We took the site closest to the middle of the lake and quickly set up camp so we could eat and get some fishing in before sundown. We had some luck fishing from the shore. One of the guys in our group caught a huge pike. As the sun was setting, we went out in the boats and tried fishing directly on the other side of the lake. However, we did not have any luck and went back to the site and enjoyed the fire, some trail mix, and star watching.
We packed up and paddled to the portage to Clearwater. This portage was super muddy, especially toward Clearwater. Not super long, maybe 200 rods, but it was difficult with all of the mud. There are other trails on the portage too - so use your map to make sure you are going the right way.
We got back to Clearwater around 11am and settled up with the outfitter. I can't recommend this trip more. Outfitters and stay at Clearwater were fantastic and the lakes are beautiful. We drove home, of course stopping by Voyageur Brewing in Grand Marais on way home. And, as if the trip could not have gone any better, it rained almost the whole car ride home to St. Paul. Doesn't get much better than that folks.